Saturday, March 28, 2009

Peter Orszag Highly Dosed on Caffeine

The NYT profiles Peter Orszag, the budget director. Here are some interesting snippets:
At 6 in the morning, Peter R. Orszag is racing: across wet pavement for a 35-minute run, into a shower and a suit, and through a living room that looks rather like an office, the walls painted presidential gold and hung with pictures of federal monuments.

As he heads to his job as White House budget director, he already seems to pulse with energy, but he asks his driver to stop at Starbucks for enormous doses of iced and hot tea. His epic caffeine intake concerned him until he solved the problem with typical Orszagian efficiency: he underwent genetic testing, confirmed that he could safely metabolize large amounts and happily moved on to the next worry.

Mr. Orszag is the youngest member of President Obama’s team holding cabinet rank, a 40-year-old with what colleagues call a graybeard’s knowledge of how the government spends money. But he has little interest in merely keeping fiscal house.
“When people are saying this is not how O.M.B. has done things before, I’ve been shrugging my shoulders and saying this is not your father’s O.M.B.,” he said in a recent interview in his office, where a direct phone line to the president was just installed. (He has not yet dared press the little blue button.)
“He’s made nerdy sexy,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
..........When Rahm said that I bet he was giggling.
Mr. Orszag still plays the geek, passing out propeller hats and jokingly referring to himself as “supernerd.” But nerds are socially inept, and he is anything but. He has worked in Washington on and off since he was 17 — he interned under Pete Rouse, now a senior adviser to the president — and he has intensely political instincts and aspirations.
Asked about his relationship with Mr. Summers, Mr. Orszag answered politely but stiffened visibly. The two have managed to work together congenially, several officials said, and Mr. Summers, known for his sometimes scathing assessment of people, takes Mr. Orszag seriously.

But Mr. Orszag seems to chafe a bit at the situation: Mr. Summers holds a job in which Mr. Orszag was initially interested, and as early as the transition period, Mr. Summers tried to control the budget process as well, by seeking to run meetings related to it.
For someone with two BlackBerrys — work and personal — clipped to the small of his back, Mr. Orszag seems governed by little cards: the ones in his breast pocket for notes, another that lists his meetings, a tiny hand-lettered one that materializes to summon him to the Oval Office.
His own health care conversion occurred when a doctor told him several years ago that he was at risk for cardiovascular problems. Mr. Orszag changed his diet. Each day he eats the same egg whites for breakfast and salad topped with chicken for dinner, all from the White House mess.

He also began training for marathons, sometimes startling colleagues by appearing in their offices at day’s end in head-to-toe spandex.